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Sibelius Favorites
Sibelius, Mikko Franck, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Sibelius Favorites
Genres: Special Interest, Classical
  •  Track Listings (8) - Disc #1


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CD Reviews

Sibelius and Kajanus .
(5 out of 5 stars)

"For numerous reasons this cd introduces an important, if not essential, compilation including some of the best music ever by Sibelius. Here the highlight is a small opus, `Andante festivo', which Sibelius conducted for this recording (quite a rare document). Although not spectacular at first, the morceau receives a definitive performance here. Mikko Franck's approach to `En Saga' makes of it one of the finest : In my opinion, his ranks highly with Salonen (L.A. Philharmonic) - the latter still considered a top by many listeners and/or critics. `En Saga' garnered plenty of good, if not great, recordings - among which Ormandy (Sony), Berglund (EMI), Horst Stein (London-Decca), Karajan/Berlin Philharmonic (EMI), Alexander Gibson (Chandos), Vanska (BIS), Levi (Telarc) and Andrew Davis with the Royal Stockholm orchestra (Finlandia) are deservingly celebrated. Old recordings include Beecham - whose version did not really impress me - and the eminent Furtwangler (Berlin, 1943) in a sensational, powerful, heroic and recognizably stark presentation, characteristically germanic-sounding (distinct in tone and temperament, mind you, a true German Sibelius!). Indeed, Furtwangler's doesn't sound much nordic - or romantic - but rather Germanic. Granted, Furtwangler's `Saga' may seem to sound drab or a little detached at first, but for a host of reasons his account remains an impressive one. So, now my favorite is the version offered here by Mikko Franck - a reading that outdoes most of the above in terms of orchestral detail and with its clever handling of textures and "layers" of sound. His `Saga' enters Sibelius's northern world through tangible technical approach and with, seemingly, a great deal of intuitive insight. Illuminating work, `En Saga' is one of the greatest tone poems ever done by the hand of man. `Pohjola's Daughter' is very distinctive, and receives excellent sound (for the most part of the disc, anyway, sonics are superb). Conductor Thomas Ollila and the Tampere Philharmonic of Finland produce fine sound : It is a well-rehearsed and staunch, fastened rendering. Barbirolli, Koussevitzky, as well as Paavo Berglund and especially Bernstein - with the NewYork Philharmonic - do offer "the last word" in `Pohjola's Daughter' (the trailblazing 1930 Kajanus/LSO is arguably the greatest), but the version reviewed here shouldn't be overlooked. Among "outsiders" conducting `Pohjola', i have a sweet spot for Yoel Levi on Telarc (a superb set of tone poems, issued as CD-80320). The short works `Impromptu' and `The Lover' are curios that make for good filler tracks. The last work to complete this cd (from Finnish composer and conductor Robert Kajanus) is a solid performance of the acclaimed tone poem `Aino' - a lovely classic of genuine Suomi signature, much different from Sibelius yet linked musically with the "way" of the latter's compositional style. Panula does very good things, the direction seems to be strong and at the same time flexible. An excellent closure to a fascinating, enthralling cd. *****"